March 10, 2015

Walter Saunders Kills Charles Bethurum, Lincoln, 1874


Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles


[March 20, 1874] -

A Sheriff's Possee Kill a Desperado.

It will be remembered that some time since the clerk's office in Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle Co., was burned, with all of its contents. Three men were charged with the crime of firing it, and two of them, namely C. P. Berthurum and Andy Cummins, were arrested and placed in jail there. We believe the other, R. P. Berthurum, escaped. In December last, the two broke jail and have been prowling about ever since, frequently visiting the house of one Purcell, who lives near Hall's Gap, in this [Lincoln] county, and who is a brother-in-law to Berthurum.

They have been a pest to the good neighborhood, and the people, knowing them to be desperadoes, desired to have them arrested. So they gave information to Sheriff Saunders, of their rendesvous. Some weeks since a writ was placed in the hands of Mr. Saunders for their arrest. On Friday night last, he, in company with officer Tom Atkins of Stanford, and two Messrs. Tucker, went out to arrest them. They arrived at the premises just after dark, and before they got to the house met Purcell, the brother-in-law, and another man, who accompanied the squad to the house where Berthurum and Cummins were. Purcell entered the house first, followed by Sheriff Saunders, who, on entering, drew his gun on Berthurum and told him to set down and hold up his hands and he should not be hurt, as he was only authorized, as a Sheriff, to arrest him. Instead of quietly submitting to this proper request, he sprang at Saunders like a wild tiger and seized his gun, trying to wrench it from him. Officer Atkins, knowing the desperate character of Berthurum, and to save the life of his chief, shot Berthurum, after which he was shot twice by others of the squad it is presumed, and after all, ran into the yard twenty or more feet, before he staggered and fell lifeless.

The whole affair occurred within less than a minute. In the fracas with Berthurum, Cummins escaped and went off in the darkness, breathing threatenings of death on the Sheriff and his possee. Of course, the officers regret the necessity for the killing, but the whole community justify the act. It is moreover said that Berthurum and Cummins both had a gun and pistols with them all the time, and said they intended to kill Saunders, the Tuckers and Mr. Sam Chandler.

Bethurum was buried the next day by his brother-in-law, Purcell, after Coroner Hiatt had held an inquest on the body. If this article should meet the eyes of Cummins, we would assure him that his best interest lies in going clear of the officers of the law in our county, as they intend to discharge their whole duty, regardless of threats or their own personal safety, or of even his hide. [1]


[March 21, 1874] -

A Mountain Desperado Killed.

[Danville (Ky.) Advocate, 19th.]

Some months ago the Clerk's office at Mt. Vernon was burned, and three men, Andy Cummins, D. P. Berthumen, and C. P. Berthumen, were arrested, charged with the crime, and placed in jail. They escaped last December. The town marshal of Stanford, T. J. Atkins, held a warrant for their arrest on the charge of grand larceny. Last Friday, learning that they were at the house of a man named Percell, a brother-in-law of Berthumen, who lives near Hall's Gap station, where they had been for several days, committing depredations and threatning the lives of citizens in that neighborhood, Sheriff Walter Sanders, Marshal Atkins, and two others went out to arrest them. The officers reached the place just after dark and met Percell and another man a short distance from the house, who returned with them. On entering the door Sheriff Sanders leveled his gun and called on the men to surrender, saying that they should not be hurt. They laughed at the officer's promise of protection, and one of the men grabbed his gun. Seeing that Sanders was in danger, Marshal Atkins pulled his pistol and shot C. P. Berthuman, who then ran from the house, when those on the outside riddled him with bullets, killing him instantly. In the confusion the other men made their escape. No blame is attached to the officers, as it is said that the shooting was justifiable. [2]


[March 22, 1874] -

Kentucky Desperado Killed.

LOUISVILLE, March 21.-- C. B. Bethuman, a noted desperado and a fugitive from justice, was caught and killed in his mountain recess a few days since by a party of officers attempted his arrest. [3]


[March 27, 1874] -

It is reported that the man Andy Cummins, who escaped from the posse of Sheriff Saunders at the time [Charles] Berthurum was killed, is now prowling about Mt. Vernon, pretending to bid defiance to the officers of the law. We have seen braver and sharper desperadoes than Andy gobbled up by a single officer. [4]


[1] "Crime." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 20, 1874. Page 3. LOC.

[2] "A Mountain Desperado Killed." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY. March 21, 1874. Page 1.

[3] "Kentucky Desperado Killed." Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH. March 22, 1874. Page 1.

[4] Excerpt from "Home Jottings." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 27, 1874. Page 3. LOC.


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